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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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A truly political liturgy

Our weekly worship is more socially relevant than we imagine

Earlier this summer I drove down narrow dirt streets lined with rickety shacks, one jammed next to the other, in Cape Town, South Africa. The smell of poverty hung in the air—the musty whiff of garbage and decay.

<I>Foundation</I> from the Global City Babel Seriece by G. Carol BomerThe Danish nurse ministering there spoke about the problems that lay behind the walls of these shacks: unemployment, hunger, child abuse, illiteracy, violent crime and HIV/AIDS, just to name a few.

It’s hard to imagine at such times that the beauty of liturgical worship is relevant. It feels more like a quaint hobby of religious people who are out of touch with the real world. Worship leaders wear medieval robes and guide the congregation through ritual that is anything but spontaneous or politically relevant. The music is hundreds of years old and prayers are scripted and formal. The homily is based on an ancient book, and the high point is eating a meal to remember a rabbi who died centuries ago.


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July issue

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Economic inequality

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